I hope you are enjoying this series as much as I am!
Let us keep on reading J.C Ryle’s words on LOVE ♥
III. Let me show, thirdly, “where the love of the Bible comes.”
“Love, such as I have described, is certainly not natural to man. Naturally, we are all more or less selfish, envious, ill-tempered, spiteful, ill- natured, and unkind. We have only to observe children, when left to themselves, to see the proof of this. Let boys and girls grow up without proper training and education, and you will not see one of them possessing Christian love. Mark how some of them think first of themselves, and their own comfort and advantage! Mark how others are full of pride, passion, and evil tempers! How can we account for it? There is but one reply. The natural heart knows nothing of true love.
The love of the Bible will never be found except in a heart prepared by the Holy Spirit. It is a tender plant, and will never grow except in one soil. You may as well expect grapes on thorns, or figs on thistles, as look for love when the heart is not right.
The heart in which love grows is a heart changed, renewed, and transformed by the Holy Spirit. The image and likeness of God, which Adam lost at the fall, has been restored to it, however feeble and imperfect the restoration may appear. It is to “participate in the Divine nature” by union with Christ and Sonship to God; and one of the first features of that nature is love. (2 Peter 1:4)
Such a heart is deeply convinced of sin, hates it, flees from it, and fights with it from day to day. And one of the prime elements of sin which it daily labors to overcome, is selfishness and lack of love.
Such a heart is deeply aware of its mighty debt to our Lord Jesus Christ. It feels continually that it owes to Him who died for us on the cross, all its present comfort, hope, and peace. How can it show forth its gratitude? What can it render to its Redeemer? If it can do nothing else, it strives to be like Him, to walk in His footsteps, and, like Him, to be full of love. The fact that, “God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” is the surest fountain of Christian love. Love will produce love.
I ask my readers special attention to this point. It is one of great importance in the present day. There are many who profess to admire love, while they care nothing about vital Christianity. They like some of the fruits and results of the Gospel, but not the root from which these fruits alone can grow, or the doctrines with which they are inseparably connected.
Hundreds will praise love who hate to be told of man’s corruption, of the blood of Christ, and of the inward work of the Holy Spirit. Many a parent would like his children to grow up unselfish and good tempered, who would not be very pleased if someone pressed upon their children the need for conversion, and repentance, and faith.
Now I desire to protest against this notion, that you can have the fruits of Christianity without the roots–that you can produce Christian dispositions without teaching Christian doctrines–that you can have love that will wear and endure without grace in the heart.
I grant, most freely, that every now and then one sees a person who seems very loving and amiable, without any distinctive doctrinal religion. But such cases are so rare and remarkable, that, like exceptions, they only prove the truth of the general rule. And often, too often, it may be feared in such cases the apparent love is only external, an in private completely fails. I firmly believe, as a general rule, you will not find such love as the Bible describes, except in the soil of a heart thoroughly endowed with Bible religion. Holy practice will not flourish without sound doctrine. What God has joined together it is useless to expect to have separate and asunder.
The delusion which I am trying to combat is helped forward to a most mischievous decree by the vast majority of novels, romances, and tales of fiction. Who does not know that the heroes and heroines of these works are constantly described as patterns of perfection? They are always doing the right thing, saying the right thing, and showing the right disposition! They are always kind, and amiable, and unselfish, and forgiving! And yet you never hear a word about their religion! In short, to judge by the generality of works of fiction, it is possible to have excellent practical religion without doctrine, the fruits of the Spirit without the grace of the Spirit, and the mind of Christ without union with Christ!
Here, in short, is the great danger of reading most novels, romances and works of fiction. The greater of them give a false or incorrect view of human nature. They paint their model men and women as they ought to be, and not as they really are. The readers of such writings get their minds filled with wrong conceptions of what the world is. Their notions of mankind become visionary and unreal. They are constantly looking for men and women such as they never meet, and expecting what they never find.
Let me entreat my readers, once for all, to draw their ideas of human nature from the Bible, and not from novels. Settle it down in your mind, that there cannot be true love without a heart renewed by grace. A certain degree of kindness, courtesy, amiability, good nature, may undoubtedly be seen in many who have no vital religion. But the glorious plant of Bible love, in all its fullness and perfection, will never be found without union with Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. Teach this to your children, if you have any. Hold it up in schools, if you are connected with any. Lift up love. Make much of love. Give place to none in exalting the grace of kindness, love, good nature, unselfishness, good temper. But never, never forget that there is but one school in which these things can be thoroughly learned, and that is the school of Christ. Real love comes down from above. True love is the fruit of the Spirit. He that would have it must sit at Christ’s feet and learn of Him.”
Tomorrow we’ ll read the last part of this series, Why Love is Called the Greatest of the Graces.